As a little bunny... "family time" was required.
As in mandatory.
I know, all families do that.
But in our home the big rabbit had a very strict code about family events.
He did not allow for exceptions and there was no sense in bothering to ask for a reprieve.
It was not going to happen.
Nor could you ask to have a friend included.
I suppose I can understand that as an adult...
would I have wanted to add in a sixth body to the back of the station wagon?
He drove a 1956 black Buick.
There was room up front for parents and one small child...
the older you were, the better chances you had to have your own spot on the rear bench seat.
In all my years in that car, I never had a spot on the bench seat
before it was traded in for a Mustang in 1967.
It was one of the lists of blessings and curses of being the baby.
The big rabbit had the attitude that once a week we needed to go
somewhere... as a family.
If he was tired, it might be a picnic in the park to listen to
a free band concert... with a cooler of beer.
If it was a weekend where he felt energetic,
9 times out of 10,
it was a day trip to some historical place
in California usually involving Gold Rush days.
Those included old timey towns, museums
and quaint places to drink beer.
Hey... you drive 5 kids around in a station wagon all day and
you'd deserve a beer too!
Once a month in the summer we'd all head out for GG's and
Disney Land and Knott's Berry Farm.
But the real vacations... those that did not involve a quick day trip,
were a tribulation.
When big boo (the brother my oldest was named for)
and I were wee ones, we were shuffled from
the space between mom and dad...
where you could not wiggle or fiddle with anything...
to squirming on one of the big sister's laps in the back seat.
A pre-schooler's nightmare.
Once we got older...
I suspect that this was defined by our level of chattiness...
we were kicked to the back of the Buick.
This space, normally occupied by baggage on shorter weekend
trips was freed up
when the luggage rack was stuck to the top of the car
by big suction cup things with tie downs
and family bags webbed inside.
At least once a trip the big rabbit would have a fit when
mama rabbit had... HAD... to have something from the depths of the web, which required pulling to the edge of the road
with the big rabbit muttering while he tried to extract
whatever from the inner web,
and had to lace and re-lace it back together.
Mama rabbit gave him encouraging directions and all the little bunnies
peeked out the windows.
"Don't touch the glass!"
As if that was a reasonable expectation.
(When we'd stop for the night... the big rabbit would unpack the car and take his bottle of Windex out to remove evidence that
a pack of wild bunnies were riders inside.)
The back of the Buick was a great place in our heads...
big boo and silly little rabbit.
No seat belts in those days!
We could sit cross legged or lay on our backs.
"Get your feet off the roof of the car!"
Or lay on our stomach and color, draw, etc.
We could make faces at cars daring to pass
the Buick speed racer.
We had pillows and sleeping bags.
Why hadn't we thought to be too chatty sooner?
there were other more dubious reasons for our banishment.
I was prone to asthma attacks... which often prompted mama
rabbits need to have the big rabbit unpack a portion of the web.
"Why wouldn't you put IT in the glove box?"
I'd cough, wheeze and cough some more, bringing up phlegm into my pile of tissues in a paper bag.
Once my lungs calmed down and my sisters stopped trying to help me over the back seat to my mother's direction...
I'd have to lay still and get a grip.
Big boo had his own bag... lined with a plastic bag.
I used to think it would have been great to have vacation photos of that...
Here's big boo puking in the Sierra Nevadas!
I can still hear mama rabbit
"George! He's puking! Pull over!"
The big rabbit would swerve to the side of the road
encouraging another round.
Big boo would lay back and moan.
It was inevitable that the bunnies would become restless and start to fight and fuss.
The big rabbit's cure for this was to begin to sing
"99 bottles of beer on the wall..."
initiate license plate bingo games...
or my favorite, beetle bug slug fests.
If there was one thing the big rabbit hated about the trips,
it was bathroom stops.
I clearly recall him pointing out cows or rocks... something,
anything to keep mama rabbit from saying, as a sign approached
"There's a rest stop ahead... anyone have to go?"
Some bunny always had to go!
Finally we reached a decent motel.
Mama rabbit determined what was or wasn't decent.
She would wait an extra half hour to hour for decent
while the lure of stopping and a cool beer drove the big rabbit insane.
This was a dangerous time... and all the little rabbits
knew better than to whine.
The big rabbit would leave the car running while he checked us in and arranged for roll away beds...
all the little rabbits craned their heads to look for the swimming pool.
We had a pool at home. We swam every day that it was warm.
But there was something about those kidney shaped motel pools...
Did it have a slide? Where was the slide?
We could unpack the Buick faster than a jack rabbit on a date.
(A great line from A Christmas Story)
Mama rabbit always put the suits on top.
We'd gather pool side and wait for the big rabbit to arrive with his magazine and beer, give the nod and jump in.
I can't tell you much about any of the cities we visited.
We traveled mostly in the mid-west
on down to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
Cities bored the snot out of me.
Between there were weird relatives, horned toads and turtles
that I recall clearly.
But those are stories for another day.
Most of what I recall as a kid on those trips is that the big rabbit always seemed to be very cross.
I couldn't help but wonder why he took this sort of misery upon himself.
He could have stayed home and worked on my mother's endless home improvement projects
in the comfort of a noisy swamp cooler, reading his encyclopedias...
sipping his beer.
I suppose it didn't matter.
At the end of his day, there was always something to read and a beer.
May as well tucker the bunnies out, see the sights and visit relatives
who likely as not were just as glad to see the brood go as they were to see us arrive... until the next trip.